Light from the East

Matthew Alderman

The claim that the altar of the early Church was always designed to celebrate facing the people, a claim made often and repeatedly, turns out to be nothing but a fairy tale.
—Josef Jungmann, S.J., a former advocate of Mass facing the congregation 1

When asked about the era before the liturgical changes of the mid-1960s, Catholics who lived through it often bring up exotic tales of Masses celebrated by a priest with “his back to the people,” sometimes wistfully, sometimes not. In these reveries, the Second Vatican Council inevitably becomes the event that turned the priest around and broke the altar away from the wall. Until then, the celebrant had typically faced the apse or rear wall of the church, ostensibly appearing to be “away from the people.” This practice was described for symbolic and historical reasons using the Latin phrase, ad orientem, “to the east,” sometimes also rendered in English as “the eastward position.” 2 Now he was turned to face the congregation, versus populum, an apparent fruit of post-Conciliar openness. However, a careful combing of the relevant Council document, Sacrosanctum Concilium, reveals that Vatican II did not mandate any such action. In light of the skepticism Pope Benedict has expressed throughout his career concerning the prudence of this change, it is imperative that the informed layman to be able to evaluate the true historical rationale behind this still-controversial decision. Any detailed examination of the matter will find the logic behind this shift deeply flawed. [Read more...]

A Song for Caitlin

J.B. Toner

God’s earth is full of beauty, that I know;
   It scintillates and dances in my eyes,
   His laughter rolls and rings and multiplies,
And makes the turning vistas chime and glow—
But little peace it grants me, even so:
   I cannot cling to bright salvation’s prize;
   The Heaven-light that lights my way soon dies,
For want of faith (perhaps) through which to flow.
 And yet my world holds hope and purity;
   Our Lady’s Son redeemed the depths of Hell—
 And traces of her grace I still can see,
   Like sun-sparked droplets from a silver well:
 This medal round my neck which is, to me,
   Three strands of hair from my Galadriel.

[Read more...]


J.B. Toner

How many times, I wonder, have I prayed
 With all my waning strength for some one grace,
 One desperate panacea to efface
The miseries that make my faint hopes fade—
How many nights have passed in my despair
 Before I found the wits and faith to see
 The providential serendipity
Whereby the Lord ignores and answers prayer?
 For, peering out from terror’s shroud voluminous,
   At last I realize that what I ask
 Is not in keeping with the soul-wyrd numinous
   Which glows within my heart behind doubt’s mask—
 But when at last I glimpse His purpose luminous,
   I bow before my long-appointed task.

[Read more...]

John the Baptist

Simeon Lewis

After him, the rain.

The desert thirst, countless sands
Unfolding a vast dazzling waste,
Ripples of wind etched
Like lines of the snake
On pyramid mountains sinking
In golden sun.
A naked beaten tree alive—
Roots to an unseen spring.

[Read more...]

Echo Lake

Timothy Ferris

Between two mountains of hollow height,
By rope swings, cliffs, and lofty trees,
We played in spring’s obliging breeze
In the water, Echo Lake. [Read more...]

Calling Cupertino

Joseph M. Barbato

The building is burning and I’m inside. Somewhere on the townhome’s third floor a small girl is screaming. She won’t live unless we find her.

We’re two in and two out. The guys outside unroll a hose and hit hot spots, and the new guy is with me. We’re in full turnout gear: yellow helmet and face shield, hood, gloves, jacket, pants, and breathing apparatus. A thirty-pound tank and a bag of rope are strapped to my back. I carry an axe. [Read more...]

Lessons in Debasement

David Alexander

“Every man has a pope in his belly.”
-Martin Luther

Reggie scanned the collection of misfits that had come to hear him speak as to an oracle. Regulars from adult education seminars, they included an aging hippie with a bandana, as well as a biker cultivating Civil War-era muttonchops. Reggie wore a stylish robe and slippers and cleared his throat before reading aloud from a piece of paper: [Read more...]

On Things As They Are

Amy Welborn

You’d think that when it came to the coming-of-age novel, Catholics would be the masters. It’s the story of redemption after loss—isn’t that the basic Catholic story? Loss of innocence, exposure to the real world, hints of redemption, recollections glimmering like small jewels worked into an antique tapestry… you’d think. [Read more...]

Advent 2006


Amy Welborn, On Things As They Are


David Alexander,
Lessons in Debasement

Joseph M. Barbato,
Calling Cupertino

Michael Doyle,
King Saul


Sarah DeCorla-Souza,

John A. Di Camillo,
Timeless Embrace

Timothy Ferris,
Echo Lake

Simeon Lewis,
John the Baptist

J.B. Toner, Four Sonnets


Matthew Alderman,
Light from the East

Ryan T. Anderson,
Christ, Culture, and the Culture Wars

Shannon Berry,

K.E. Cybulski,
Saving Berlin

Fr. Pang Joseph Shiu Tcheou,
Celibacy and the Eucharist

Art and Prose

Daniel Balan, Pursuing the Sacred in Art

Art and Photography

Alysse Boyd,

Teresa Burkett,

Taryn Kutish,
Assisi Dawn

Michael Rakszawski,